Days Gone By - stories from the past

Have you ever seen this face in the courthouse window in Pickens County, Alabama?



Carrollton is the county seat of Pickens County, in the central part of the county on the old stagecoach road from Columbus, Mississippi, to Montgomery. It is 1 mile from Lubbub Creek, 10 miles east of Tombigbee River, 30 miles southeast of Columbus, Mississippi, 40 miles north of Eutaw, Alabama.

Pickens county courthouse

The town was incorporated by the legislature, January 15, 1831, with limits extending 1 mile in every direction from the courthouse. Newspapers in the town included, The West Alabamian, a Democratic weekly, established in 1849, the Pickens County Herald, a Democratic semiweekly, established in 1904, were published there.

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Carrollton is the county seat

In 1830, the United States Government gave the commissioners of Pickens County 80 acres of land on which to establish a county seat. Carrollton was built upon this land and named for Charles Carroll of Carrollton, the Maryland signer of the Declaration of Independence.

Among the first settlers were the Van Hoose, Stansel, Stone, Clitherall, Lanier, Davis, Martin, Hill, and Johnston families. Samuel B. Moore, governor of the State in 1831, after the expiration of his term of service, came to Carrollton, and there he died. His remains lie in an unmarked grave in the town cemetery. The Confederate hero, Gen. John Herbert Kelly, killed at the Battle of Franklin, Tennessee, was born in Carrollton.face in window

The Pickens County courthouse in the center of Carrollton was erected in 1877. The first courthouse in Carrollton was burned on April 5, 1865 by troops of Union General John T. Croxton. A second courthouse was also destroyed by fire on November 16, 1876. Though arson was suspected, no arrest was made until January 1878 when Henry Wells, an African American with some criminal history, was arrested and locked in the garret of the new building.

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Wells was peering through the glass

According to legend, Wells was peering down from the north garett window with his face pressed against the glass as a mob gathered to hang him. A bolt of lightning struck the window pane and “etched” Wells’ anguished face into the window glass. A vague image resembling a face can still be seen in that lower right-hand pane of that window. He died less than two months later “of wounds received while attempting to escape.”

Here is the whole story told by a famous story teller, and author Kathryn Tucker Windham.

Pane has remained intact through all storms

“Through all the years, in spite of hail and storm, which destroyed all the windows in the courthouse, this one pane remained intact. It has been scrubbed with soap and rubbed with gasoline by those who doubt its permanence, but it has met every test and the face remains unchanged. At close range the pane looks clear and flawless, but viewed from the ground, the fear-distorted face of Henry Wells can be clearly seen!”

The 130th anniversary of the Face in the Window passed without fanfare in Carrollton. “I don’t think anybody took the time to realize that it’s been 130 years,” the town clerk told us. “We just know it’s there.” The clerk also said that the Courthouse was never threatened with demolition; Carrollton would never tear down it’s most famous building, even if it carries Henry Well’s curse. The Courthouse was just being restored to tip-top condition.


  1. Acts, 1830-31, pp. 48-50; Brewer, Alabama (1872), p. 500 et seq.;
  2. Smith, Pickens County; Armes, Story of coal and iron in Alabama (1910), pp. 34-55;
  3. Northern Alabama (1888), p. 213; Folk’s Alabama gazetteer, 1888-9, p. 252.
  4. Wikipedia, Carrollton, Alabama

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Donna R. Causey, resident of Alabama, was a teacher in the public school system for twenty years. When she retired, Donna found time to focus on her lifetime passion for historical writing. She developed the websites www.alabamapioneers and All her books can be purchased at and Barnes & Noble. She has authored numerous genealogy books. RIBBON OF LOVE: A Novel Of Colonial America (TAPESTRY OF LOVE) is her first novel in the Tapestry of Love about her family where she uses actual characters, facts, dates and places to create a story about life as it might have happened in colonial Virginia. Faith and Courage: Tapestry of Love (Volume 2) is the second book and the third FreeHearts: A Novel of Colonial America (Book 3 in the Tapestry of Love Series) Discordance: The Cottinghams (Volume 1) is the continuation of the story. . For a complete list of books, visit Donna R Causey

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  1. Responding to text on The Face In The Window of the Pickens County Courthouse: You sight a story by Kathryn Tucker Tucker. Do you mean Kathryn Tucker Windham?
    Joe McKnight

    1. I certainly did Joe. Thanks for catching that.

  2. Caroline Jones Lockridge

    Been to this place. The glass does look funny but I did not see a face.

    1. Daniel Williamson

      You have to be close and at the right angle. Its weird but its there

    2. Linda McDaniel McCooey

      I have seen this many times over the last 40+ years. We use to go and research family history in Pickens Co….this was always both spooky and incredibly interesting to me!!!! It has certainly held through the test of time!

  3. Stacy Johnson

    Linda Shoemaker Johnson this is what we were talking about at our get together.

  4. Kista Akridge Hamilton

    This is my favorite story of all the Alabama Ghost stories!! I’ve been there and seen the face!

  5. Troy Howard

    The face is real don’t know how or why but it’s still there

  6. Sam Harris

    Trish Robertson Johnson

    1. Trish Robertson Johnson

      Thanks, Sam Harris!! Love it and yes I see the face!! I posted one on Heart of Dixie-Memories, Legends and Ghosts of our Southern Past last week that an Indian face in window! Very cool! “)

  7. John Ray

    I remember this story from decades ago and passing by this place going to the hunting camp. One of the coolest ghost stories

  8. Teresa Wolford

    I have seen that in person. It’s there!

  9. Tommy Frutiger

    I have seen the face every time I have been there. From several different angles. It is there.

  10. Mary Ann Estano Copland

    I live there, and it is still here. You can’t see it very well in this pic.

  11. Stacey Johnson

    One of my favorite ghost stories

  12. Krista Sorensen McCullough

    No but I’m on my Iphone… and my bifocal contact lenses don’t work well!!

  13. Karen Chappell Bird

    I have been by it is their so true.

  14. Frances Davis Mitchum

    Our dad would take us up there to see it. One of my favorite things. I saw the face

  15. Jenny Lynn Palmer

    Been there several times. Saw the face.

    1. Carl S. Martin, I think we are related by DNA. my Aunt Olivia Ball Sullivan owned the Phoenix Hotel across from that Carrollton County Courthouse and as a child my family stayed at the hotel on visits. I heard that story when I was 4-5 years old and saw the face in the window. Some of my Ball relatives are buried in the Old Garden Cemetery and other cemeteries in the area. My Mother’s Mother was a Windham, she married Buck Derryberry. I think they lived in Ewtah, Gainsville, in that area.

  16. Kay Whisenhunt

    to me, resembles Ernest Hemingway

  17. Leslie Diane Snow Albrecht

    I’ve been there and seen the face.

  18. Brandyn Willis
    1. Anna Catherine Thompson
  19. Timmy Godsey

    We drove down there just to see it and it is there

  20. Babs Adams Des Marteau

    Has been there 57 years that I can verify.

  21. Daniel Williamson

    I have seen it in person too

  22. Sheila Mims Newman

    My parents use to drive by when I was little I’ve seen it

  23. Sharon Hardy Anderson

    Need to come to Newton Alabama in Dale County. One of my favorite 13 AL Ghost Stories

  24. Dawn Anderson Eaton

    When I was hired to teach at Gordo, I interviewed at the courthouse. The principal walked me to my car and made a point to show me the face in the window. He told me the story behind the face itching on the glass and how it reappeared the time the broken window was replaced. It made the hair on the back of my neck raise.

  25. The lore was nicely told!!

  26. Bonnie Shanks

    Have been to the play too.

  27. Joey Adams

    Seen it a million times since I grew up there. May or may not have known anyone that would’ve broken that pane back…WAY BACK

  28. Teresa Lou Whoo

    Perhaps the lightening somehow lasered it into the pane

  29. Dennis Lathem

    I went there with Jack Daniels once. After a while we both saw it, but only in the light of a full moon.

  30. Jan Rawlinson Steele

    I love this story and I hope to see the “face” one day.

  31. Donna Glosson

    Yes it is true I have seen it myself.

  32. Bruce Burkhalter

    I’ve seen it several times

  33. Karen Headley

    been several times and its always there…

  34. LesJus Flowers

    I lived there my entire school years. TINY town!! I’ve seen is a billion times. The face is always there, and the pane was shot out (Joey Adams) and it was replaced. He’s still there.

  35. Wyline Dean

    If you look at it long enough your brain will tell you it sees something

  36. Susie Manderson

    I don’t believe in ghost,there is a logical explanation for this

  37. Jerry Cole

    I can barley make it out

  38. I have seen the face several times on my visits to Alabama. You definitely see a silhouette.

  39. Glenda Gault

    I remember Daddy taking us by there after after a basketball game when we were in high school.

  40. Phil Gaskin

    Saw it about 6 months ago. It is INTERESTING.

  41. Sammy Butler

    I have seen it. I think it is some kind of optical illusion.

    1. Jerry Henderson

      If you see it, it is not an illusion. ☺

    2. Dustin Gaston

      Actually you can see an optical illusion. If you ever look at the moon at night and it looks real big it is an optical illusion, because the moon never changes in size.

  42. Cathy Faust Labanowski
  43. Donna D. Key

    I’ve seen it. It looks like a face to me.

  44. Donna D. Key

    I’ve seen it. It looks like a face to me.

  45. Karen Rose

    I have been there and seen the face too before the the window was replaced

  46. Karen Rose

    I have been there and seen the face too before the the window was replaced

  47. Dianne Jackson Rockwell

    Years ago, the face in the window was where we took all our out of town visitors.

  48. Dianne Jackson Rockwell

    Years ago, the face in the window was where we took all our out of town visitors.

  49. Joyce Hill

    This is so true. I saw it. It gave me chills. As god is my witness, this is for real.

  50. Joyce Hill

    This is so true. I saw it. It gave me chills. As god is my witness, this is for real.

  51. Henry Wells

    Can anyone tell me the name of the guy?

    1. Jason Wells

      I think he had the same name as the founder of wells Fargo.

    2. Sharon Williams Graham

      His name was Henry swells!! Doug!!

    3. Sharon Williams Graham

      Wells!! Stupid spell check!!!

  52. Crystal Greninger

    i remember hanging out with friends in high school in Carrallton it was a kind of creepy out there at night face was definitely there

  53. Anndera Simpson

    Been there and I did see the face. Awesome

  54. Toni Henderson Smith

    I could never see it as a child. Haven’t been back to Carrollton since. I did see the face in one of the photos here tho. Most of the time when we went by, and they said look up, I’d cover my eyes!

    1. Jerry Henderson

      Linda I have roots in Kennedy Ala. I choose not to use FB messenger on my phone. I will message you when I’m on my outer.

  55. Ramona Phillips

    Been there and YES I did see the face!!

  56. Paula Stovall Bright

    Face is there, even when the window is replaced.

  57. Larry J Martin

    They have changed that window pane a hundred times and the image keeps coming back

  58. Phillip Berry

    I’ve seen it, it looks like a person put grease on their face and pushed their face against the glass, but it is there, I’d like to go up there and look at it up close.

  59. Phillip Berry

    It’s in the book 13 Alabama Ghost and Jeffery.

  60. Craig Morris

    I’ve seen the face. Or an image of some sort.

  61. I think I can solve this mystery right off the bat. The courthouse was burned down during the war. A new courthouse was built right after the war.According to history, the townspeople had to scrounge for materials to rebuild this courthouse. They used old lumber and bricks because they did not have the money for new materials..Here is a bit of history most people dont know. During the civil war, there were so many glass photography negatives, most were literally thrown away. There were so many after the war, many people were building green houses with tossed out glass photo negatives. People were using them as window panes. They used them as gun targets. Much of the civil war imagery was lost due to photographers disposing of the glass negatives. I think this window in this courthouse could be a glass photagraphy negative of a face. Im thinking in their attempt to keep building costs cheap, they used these glass negatives as windows. Now many glass negatives are so faint, one may not even make out an image, In fact, if they used negatives for windows, they would pick faint ones. they may appear as dirty windows. Another clue is this quote.. “Through all the years, in spite of hail and storm, which destroyed all the windows in the courthouse, this one pane remained intact ” That means there could have been other negatives used but this one is the lone survivor. They claim they have tried to wash the face off, but you cant wash the image off a glass negative. Its just a thought

  62. Ingrid Marshall

    Almost looks like a face from scary movie.

  63. Duane Johnson


  64. Julie Evelsizer

    My ex, who was from Pickens County, took me on a Pickens County tour early in our relationship and showed me the face.

  65. Loretta McKenzie

    I could not see the face.I can in the photo.

  66. Judy Crowe

    I’ve actually been there and you can see him. We lived in Pickens County one time.

  67. Susan S Hopkins

    My aunt took me by this courthouse when I was a young girl & I saw the face

  68. The face is real and I loved the video of Katherine Windham Tucker. She is forever an Alabama treasure!

  69. Stan Bamberg

    I was there a few weeks ago. My pic didn’t show up so well, so I didn’t post it.

  70. Carlos Mitchell

    Does anyone know why it is their.I have seen it when I lived in alabama

  71. Jaime Pina

    Amber Linkenhoker is this the Pickens where u lived?

  72. Amber Linkenhoker

    No we lived in Pickens South Carolina !! I bet you still love to watch scary movies!!!!

  73. Jaime Pina

    Of course i do there my fave

  74. Sharon Isbell Sweezey

    I was there about two months ago. Oh yeah It’s there. Kinda creepy

  75. R Allen Stewart

    I’ve seen it. One of the stories from “The 13 Ghosts Of Alabama” which can actually be seen.

  76. Ellece Varnes

    Marie Burns Lutz Your Mom might like this one.

  77. Marie Burns Lutz

    Lived there I. The 60s. Was scary to ride bike by the window every day. Really spooky to see it in a storm!

  78. I saw it about 41 years ago.

  79. […] Pickens County courthouse 2010 by Carol Highsmith, Library of Congress […]

  80. Maricel D Mcintosh

    You mean the cartoon looking face? Yeah I saw it, cool story.

  81. Lucy Jackson

    My aunt and uncle had a farm there. I saw the face when I went there.

  82. Joni Collopy

    I don’t think you need the arrow.

  83. Kay Clark Owens

    I’ve seen it dozens of times. Yes, dozens.

  84. Karen Jeselskis Ramsey

    I could listen to her tell stories all day!

  85. Bonnie Shanks

    I saw it. Have also been to the play held in the courtroom.

  86. Bill Hansford

    Have seen it in person.

  87. Brandy Autry

    My grandmother grew up in Carrollton. Spent a lot of my time at my great grandmother’s home there. The first hospital I worked in is there. That face is very much in the window. And, no, you don’t really need the arrow to see it.

  88. Tiffani Chanel

    Has anyone ever actually inspected the glass? If old leaded glass variations in the manufacturing would cause such an apparition. If newer glass, has it been etched or appliqued? Ghosts are not real. Spirits do not exist.

  89. Marynell Mobley Ball

    Made a research trip and saw the face. Very easy to see in person.

  90. Brenda Burns

    Grew up in Gordo….saw it several times when in Carrollton

  91. Kim Burkhalter Osborne

    My Dad’s family was from Gordo so we visited this courthouse on several occasions. Yes, I saw the face!

  92. Sherry Christian

    I use,to go camping quite a bit in Pickensville. There is a discoloration in the glass that I guess could be interpreted as a face

  93. Jane Haight

    Must be a bad photo…I can’t identify a face

  94. Cheryl Mills Hand LaBarre
  95. Hannah Coppock


  96. Dudley Thompson

    I have never seen a ha’nt

    1. Dudley Thompson

      But I used to drink a lot of likker and saw several pink elephants

  97. Gregg Alexander

    Yes it’s at our old county courthouse

  98. Hashel H Colvin

    HEY!! YUP!! I saw it but I still don’t believe it.. H

  99. George McCluskey

    I have seen it. There was an old country song written about it.

  100. Jeff Holt

    I have seen this many times on my travels from my home to Livingston, AL. I went to “LU” from 1982 to 1983.

  101. Jeff Pollard

    Yep. Turn right there to the best crappie lake in Alabama.

  102. Benny McDonald

    I think the Wells incident happened before the window was installed. And he was shot on the run, not lynched by a mob.

  103. Betty Morris Wedgeworth

    No, because it only exists in people’s imaginations.

  104. Frances McMillan

    Used to work in the building sometimes.

  105. Bob Hathcock

    I can’t see something

  106. Joyce Grainger Farmer

    Yes, I have – it’s eerie.

  107. Rebecca K. McVay
  108. Larry Newkirk

    saw it in 1977, i think.

  109. Bonnie Shanks

    Been there. Have seen that. And the play too. A sad part of our state history. Play is done in the courthouse.

  110. Lisa Revell

    Yes…love Pickens County.

  111. Lindsay Handley

    Saw it over 50 years ago as a child

  112. Christopher Warnack

    Believe I remember reading about it back in school in the 13 Ghosts of Alabama book? I could be wrong.

  113. Rex Reid

    I used to travel through there periodically 15 to 30 years ago, and took several good photographs of the image with a 400mm lens on an SLR. Amazing. The ghostly image would shift on the glass. Definitely a haunting. I still have the developed photographs somewhere.

  114. Lynn Eckberg

    Oh yes, many times for many years

  115. Gaye Langdon Prosser

    Yes, Aunt Verma took me as a child.

  116. Gerald Jones

    Saw it, it’s there!!!

  117. Kim Goss

    Yes I,ve seen it , I was there a long time ago, I saw it, and its still there, , amazing

  118. Glenda Gray Anderson

    Marguerite Seymer, Judy Gray Owen

  119. AuntWendy Craft

    Yes! Many times. My hubby was from Pickens County. Pretty awesome to see and learn the tales.

  120. Claudia Brock Hayes

    I have seen it several times

  121. Albert Clayton

    Yes, I think they have replaced panes of glass and it’s still there.

  122. Lindley Lott Mary

    yes, i believe some things will hang around like this, he must have been innocent!

  123. James E Roberson

    I saw it. Looks like a face but no great detail. Mostly like a clown face.

  124. Bryan Turner

    I went there last year and didn’t see a thing. I guess they need to replace the pane of glass again, as has been done several times.

    1. Bryan Turner

      I don’t want to knock the town, evening if I didn’t see the ghost. I looked around in the building and it was very interesting. By the way, if you’re in that region also visit the musem in Aliceville that tells about their POW camp. It’s definitely worth a visit.

  125. John Knight Atkins

    I saw it 50 years ago. I also visited “Ma Cille’s Museum of Memorabilia” that same day. 🙂

  126. Linda Poiroux

    I saw it about 46 years ago.

  127. Linda Browning Lee

    My grandfather took me and several cousins to see this MANY years ago. We thought it was pretty neat!

  128. Dona Smith

    Yep, and told that tale to 1000’s of middle age students as an Outreach Librarian.

  129. Marilyn Primero

    48 years ago, it was as clear as day!

  130. Pat Walton

    This woman is a good story teller.

  131. Jane Gooden

    l saw it about 60 years ago!!!

  132. Chris Penuel

    Nicole Lynn see I told ya

  133. George McCluskey
  134. Howard Lofton

    I am sure there is Ghost and Goblins in every town in Alabama

  135. Jasmin Brown

    Yep, bout oce a year, my grandfather, or an uncle or an aunt, would take all of us riding…from Greene County over to Pckens , Carrolton…, to see the face and to hear that story and get a 6 cents co cola.

  136. Betty Wells

    Our Daddy drove us by it on the way to the McCulley family reunion

  137. Patricia Styles Harrison

    Our paranormal group at the time was the very first group that ever investigated it. Very interesting place !!!

  138. Janice Campbell Scroggins

    Yes I have, my mother and her parents were from Gordo, AL

  139. Ginger Stewart

    Daddy drove us by this every time we went to visit family in Gordo! When I had my own child, I took him, too!

  140. Lynn Cobb Johns

    Yes. Couldn’t believe it but it was there

  141. Crystal McLemore Huggins

    Saw it two years ago. We stop by on our way to the beach.

  142. Teresa Henderson Burgess

    I have heard this story all my life and got a chance to see the window for myself a few years ago.

  143. Janice Free

    Went there and if you wait long enough , you will see him!!!

  144. Anna Sansing

    Lindsey Turner omg we so need to see this. #seniortrip

  145. David Sullivan

    Isn’t this in “13 Alabama Ghosts and Jeffrey”? It’s been a few decades since I’ve read that book, though.

  146. Judi Spain Rainey

    Yes I have been there and seen the face!

  147. Lucy Jackson

    I’ve actually seen it. My aunt and uncle had a farm nearby.

  148. Shannon Wilder
  149. Fanny Kimble

    I’ve seen it. Creeped me out.

  150. Betty Collums

    Yes I have been to see it

  151. Howard Koontz

    there is a handprint on the old PA prison cell wall from a man who was hung in the prison. He proclaimed his innocence while touching the cell wall. He was condemned as part of the Molly McQuire gang. It has never been destroyed. Painting, removal, and replacement of the bricks, wall boarding over, the handprint reappears

  152. Melissa Webb

    When I was 14 years old, I saw this face while visiting my best friend’s aunt who lived in the area. It really does show up when you look up from below.

  153. Victoria R. Brady

    I remember going there when just a kid.

  154. Dale Hall

    i’ve seen this many times.

  155. Bill Hudson

    Been there several times. Ancestors from Pickens County.

  156. Walley McIlwain

    I’ve seen it many times…I went to school in Aliceville…

  157. Horace Page

    yes I have see it several times.

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